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Education news in brief - April 2021

Police say sexual abuse rife in UK’s state and private schools

The website was created to expose how young people experience a ‘normalised’ culture of misogyny, molestation and sexual harassment. Over 8,000 anonymous testimonies about sexual abuse in schools have now been recorded, and more than 100 schools have been named.

MPs have said that serious allegations of sexual misconduct within schools must be investigated by Ofsted. Ministers want Ofsted to establish why complaints by pupils of rape, harassment and assault aren’t being taken seriously.

A special national helpline is expected to be set up this week, and police say that the total number of allegations could exceed 11,000.

Government security centre warns schools and colleges about increased risk of cyber attacks

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of GCHQ, has published a report warning schools and colleges to take further precautions to protect themselves against ransomware. This follows an increase in the number of attacks since late February.

These attacks have led to the loss of student coursework, school financial records and data relating to COVID-19 testing.

The NCSC has published guidance setting out the steps schools and colleges can take to disrupt and recover from ransomware attacks.

Shielding programme paused from 1 April 2021

The shielding programme is being paused nationally after 31 March. Anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable won’t have to shield that date, but should continue to work from home where possible, according to updated government advice. But, if that’s not possible, they ‘should’ attend their workplace. 

Lowering of National Living Wage age thresholds and increase in National Minimum Wage rates

From 1 April 2021, the rate of the National Living Wage will increase by £0.19 to £8.91 per hour. This will also be payable to more workers because the age threshold is being reduced to 23. Currently, only workers aged 25 and above qualify.

The National Minimum Wage rates will also increase as follows:

Those aged 21 to 22 will receive £8.36 per hour – an increase of £0.16

Those aged 18 to 20 will receive £6.56 per hour – an increase of £0.11

Those aged 16 to 17 will receive £4.62 – an increase of £0.07

Apprentices under the age of 19 or in their first year will receive £4.30 – an increase of £0.15

These rates will, therefore, increase your wage bills.

Increase in ‘injury to feeling’ bands

Anyone who wins a discrimination claim is entitled to receive an award to compensate them for ‘injury to their feelings’. These are known as the ‘Vento’ bands.

From 6 April 2021, these have increased in line with the Retail Price Index as follows:

Lower band (less serious cases) - £900 to £9,100

Middle band (cases that don’t merit an award in the upper band) - £9,100 to £27,400

Upper band (the most serious cases) - £27,400 to £45,600

Tribunals can make awards over £45,600 for exceptionally serious cases.

Please note: these awards relate to any claim submitted on or after 6 April 2021.

Increases to the statutory rates for maternity, paternity, shared parental pay, adoption and sick pay 

Weekly rates for family-related leave will increase by 77 pence to £151.97 from Monday 12 April 2021. The rate for Statutory Sick Pay will increase by 50 pence to £96.35 per week.

Employers must keep National Minimum Wage records for six years

New regulations which come into force on 1 April 2021 extend the period for which employers must keep NMW records from three years to six years.

The records must contain enough details to establish that workers have been paid at least the NMW.